Les Misťrables (1998)





Director:     .

Starring:     Christopher Adamson (Bertin), Tim Barlow (Lafitte), Timothy Bateson (Banker), Veronika BendovŠ (Azelma), David Birkin (Courfeyrac), Reine Brynolfsson (Captain Beauvais), Patsy Byrne (Toussaint), Kathleen Byron (Mother Superior), VŠclav Chalupa (Andrť), Ian Cregg (Feuilly), Ben Crompton (Grantier), Claire Danes (Cosette), Zdenek David (Peasant), Paola Dionisotti (Forewoman), Edna Dorť (Old Woman).

 obsessive policeman relentlessly keeps after a common thief turned good man, set against the June Rebellion of 1832


Spoiler Warning:

A man sleeps outside. An old woman asks him why does he sleep there? The man says for the woman to leave him alone. She asks if he knocked on doors to ask for a place to stay? Yes, he did, now leave him alone. She then says he didnít knock on that door. The woman tells him to knock on that door.

The man knocks and is told to come in. The man says: "Look, Iím a convict. My name is Jean Valjean. Iíve served 19 yearsí hard labor. They let me out four days ago. Iím on parole. I have to go all the way to Dijon to report by Monday or theyíll send me back to prison. So, hereís my passport. I canít read, but I know what it says: ĎHeís very dangerousí."

The clergyman invites him in for supper. Jean doesnít quite believe that they are going to let a convict into their home. He comes in. He admits that he was a thief. He stole food, but he paid for it with 19 years in chains.

Flashback. Toulon. Jean has to move huge rocks around. One is so huge that after he lets it go, he sinks to his knees. A guard comes over and kicks Jean. He tries to kick Jean again, but Jean grabs his leg and bites him. Another guard hits Jean with the butt of his rifle.

Back to the present. Jean suddenly awakens from his nightmare. He gets dressed and with his pack goes to the dining room to steal the silverware. The old cleric hears the noise and comes to check. Jean hits him in the head and knocks the fellow down and out. He then leaves the house. He starts running.

The police bring Jean back to the clericís home. They say they searched the man and found all this silverware on him. Jean told them that the cleric gave him the silverware. The cleric says well, yes he did give Jean the silverware. But, he says to Jean, why were you so foolish as not to take the silver candle sticks too? He tells his maid to get the candlesticks for Jean. He then tells the policemen to release Jean.

The police now leave and Jean asks why did the bishop let him go? The bishop responds that with the silverware and the candlesticks he has ransomed Jean from fear and hatred. "And now I give you back to God."

Nine Years later. The prison guard, Javert, that kicked Jean is still on the trail of Jean Valjean. He travels to his new post where he will be the new police inspector. He introduces himself to Captain Beauvais and gives the man his papers. The Captain doesnít look at the papers, but just starts welcoming the new inspector. Javert tells the Captain that he would like him to follow procedure and look over his papers. So Beauvais glances at the papers for awhile.

The Captain says the papers look good and now Javert is in charge of the Vigau police. Beauvais now shows Javert around the town. Then Javert wants to meet the mayor. Beauvais will take him to the mayor, but first he warns him that the mayor is a bit eccentric. Heís shy and lives like a hermit. In fact, he didnít even want to be Mayor, but the town fathers insisted. Nevertheless, the Captain likes the mayor and feels sorry for him because the man is so lonely. His name is Monsieur le Maire, but that's an alias. Heís really Jean Valjean.

The Captain introduces Javert to the Mayor, who is shocked to see his old prison guard. The Mayor is a bit rude, asking for the manís papers, and then telling him goodbye, but the Mayor doesnít want Javert to study his face.

Now the Captain takes Javert to a tile factory that the Mayor owns and runs. A woman worker runs into another woman worker and knocks off her tiles. The second worker is worried that they will dock her for the broken tiles. The supervisor just tells her to get back to work. The first worker drops a letter from her pocket and the second worker picks it up and puts it in her own pocket.

The Mayor withdraws all his money out of the bank, telling them that he has come across a great business opportunity and must take advantage of the situation quickly. As he says goodbye to the female supervisor, the woman says she found out in a letter that one of their women workers is with child and not married. The supervisor wants her dismissed. The Mayor says he will defer the decision to her and then leaves.

He rides away on his horse. After awhile, he stops to bury his money underground.

The supervisor tells Fantine to come with her. Fantine begs the supervisor not to let her go because her little girl is very sick. "You read it in that letter from the people who take care of her." She needs 40 francs immediately or else in a week her girl will die of military fever.

Fantine keeps begging for the sake of her little girl Cosette. The supervisor says sheís sorry but the boss does not want women of questionable behavior influencing the girls here.

Fantine has to sell things she owes to make some money. One of the things she sells is her very long hair for 10 francs.

The Mayor is back at his desk when he is told a male worker has been caught underneath a wagon and they canít get him out. In a great feat of strength Valjean lifts the one side of the wagon up and the injured man is pulled out. Javert has seen the feat of strength and he is curious how a Mayor of the town could be so strong. He starts turning it over in his mind.

To make money Fantine tries prostitution.

The Mayor comes to visit the man hurt in the wagon accident. He leaves him a note and some money and hopes to slip away, but the old man awakens and is surprised to see the mayor. The Mayor says he bought the manís horse and wagon because the doctor says he hurt his knee and wonít be able to work at his old job. And he got the man a new job as a care taker and gardener.

The Mayor just recently started to learn how to read and write, but at a low level. Javert comes to see him and tells him that Paris has approved his new plan. He gives the Mayor the plan so he can read about it, but Jean asks why doesnít Javert summarize the plan for him? Javert apologizes and says he forgot. He forgot what? asks the Mayor. Forgot that the Mayor cannot read. One of the Mayor's clerks told him, but then he forgot.

So Javert summarizes the plan. He has proposed that Vigau make a detailed census count. The police will use the census as a source of information on the people of Vigau, but, more importantly, will be able to gain information on the criminals in Vigau.

Javert now rides to Paris to explain his plan further. In Paris an official says that Javert will receive the money in about a month for his census. But then he is instructed that he should drop his request for an investigation of the mayor.

Javert protests the instruction and says how he knows that the Mayor of Vigau is a thief and a corrupt man. He says if he denounces the man and a trial comes, then the evidence against the mayor will come to light. So the official gives in and tells Javert to hand in a report about the mayor and the official will investigate this discretely. He warns Javert not to denounce the mayor without proof first.

Fantine is very sick, but now she has to get 20 francs to the caretakers of Cosette or they will throw the little girl out. And her landlord wants 10 francs from her for her room. She tries to drum up business, but just gets assaulted. Javert sees this but wonít let his Captain do anything about it. He then goes over and punishes not the men doing the assaulting, but does slap Fantine hard across the face. He tells the men to get out of here. The Captain is disgusted with Javert and walks away.

Captain goes to the Mayor and says the Mayor told him to tell the Mayor when Javert has gone too far. He has kept his mouth shut for too long, but now he has definitely gone too far. Javert decides her punishment Ė six months in prison. Fantine tries to reason with Javert and tell her story but the man is heartless.

The Mayor comes in and listens to this for awhile, then he intervenes. He explains that the real criminals were the men who accosted the woman and he tells Javert to let her go. Javert puts up a vicious defense of his decision and he goes around and around verbally dueling with him. So the Mayor dismisses Javert until tomorrow and tells him to leave.

The Mayor tells Fantine that she can go, but when she is released she just collapses onto the floor. The Mayor has her taken to his place and a doctor looks her over. The doctor says the woman needs a nurse for tonight but he canít get one for tonight. The Mayor says he will take care of her tonight.

Jean starts taking care of Fantine keeping her body warm and her head cool. Fantine wakes up and thinks he wants to have sex with her. She tells him he can have her for free, since he is now being so kind to her. She doesnít understand when the Mayor says he doesnít even want a single kiss from her.

Jean tells the woman that sheís going to be okay. Heís going to send the money to the caretakers of Cosette to pay for a carriage ride to Vigua. Then her girl can go to school in Vigua. And when Fantine feels better, he will find work for her.

Now Fantine has a nurse and is looking so much better. Jean tells her that her girl should be here in a few days. That cheers up Fantine.

The caretakers, however, are dishonest and hold Cosette for more and more money. The Mayor now plans to go get the girl himself with a note of permission from Fantine. He wants to leave as soon as possible, but here comes Javert once again.

Javert says he slandered the Mayor and now wishes the Mayor to dismiss him from his job. He adds: "I must be punished." He also denounced the Mayor to the Paris prefect of police without proof, swearing that the Mayor was a convict who had broken parole. He thought the Mayor was Jean Valjean, but another man, named Carnot, has been identified as the real Jean Valjean. The inspector went to see Carnot and is satisfied that he is the real Jean Valjean.

Jean is very curious about this other "real" Jean Valjean. He asks if the man confessed, but Javert says the man claims that he is a half-wit and is not this Jean Valjean character. When will the trial take place? Tomorrow.

The Mayor says Javert is a stern man, but an honorable one. He wants Javert to remain in his current post. Javert again insists he should be punished. Jean tells him to blame him, the Mayor, saying that he orders Javert to forgive himself and blame the Mayor for that mercy.

Fantine signs the permission note for the Mayor. The Mayor goes by coach to Paris. He wants to see the trial of Jean Valjean. He gets into the trial because heís a public official. The poor defendant isnít fit to even be tried, because he is a half-wit.

As it looks like the defendant is going to be condemned, the Mayor stands up and demands that the prisoners look at his face and tell the court who he is. The prisoners are confused, but Jean Valjean starts telling them things that only the real Jean Valjean could know. They say this is the real Jean Valjean. And Jean says heís the man the court wants.

The judge canít believe it saying he knows the Mayor to be a kind man. Jean says he once was just like these prisoners in the courtroom: mean and devious. He adds that the court should continue to investigate him and they will find further proof that he is Jean Valjean.

Jean goes back to check on Fantine. The nurse says she has gotten worse and now is coughing up blood. The nurses thinks the woman is just holding on long enough to see her daughter.

Javert receives a note about the trial and the appearance of the real Jean Valjean. He shouts: "I knew it!"

Fantine asks Jean to take care of her little girl, because she knows she is going to die. Jean says he will take care of the girl.

Javert shows up and acts like the monster he is inside. He starts insulting Jean and Fantine saying theyíre both going to jail. He even pushes Jean down on the floor. Jean gets up and sees that Fantine is now dead.

Jean tells Javert that he killed Fantine. He grabs the chains from Javertís hands and puts them on him. He then knocks his face into the wall several times. Then he kisses Fantine on the forehead and starts to leave to go get Cosette. The Captain is there with a pistol in his hand and itís pointed right at the Mayorís head. The Captain asks if the Mayor is an ex-convict? Yes. Did he kill Javert? No. The Captain says thatís too bad. He has the Mayor hit him on the head from behind so he wonít be accused of letting the Mayor go.

Javert recovers and comes looking for Jean Valjean in the tile factory. He asks to examine the books to figure how much money Jean took with him. The bookkeeper says that the boss gave the factory to his employees and did not withdraw any money.

Jean digs up his money. He then continues his journey to get Cosette. Javert and his men take a big coach pulled by four horses. The obsessed man drives the coach too fast and it turns over. Javert now gets horses and continues his pursuit of Jean.

Jean arrives at the home and pretends to be just an ordinary man. He watches how Cosette is treated like Cinderella before she became Cinderella. Jean keeps his silence until the moment is right and then springs Fantineís note on the wicked caretakers.

Now he and Cosette walk along a river. They hide behind a tree when Javert and his men come by. When they reach Paris, Javert is there checking all those coming through the main gate of Paris. While Javert waits, he is told that he gets a promotion and will be assigned to Paris. He is also given some armed policemen who will help Javert catch Jean Valjean.

Jean tells Cosette that they are going to have to climb over the wall around Paris. He starts climbing with Cosette on his back.

Javert decides that since Jean Valjean has no papers, he wonít come through the gates. So he divides his six men into groups of three and sends them marching on the inside of the walls checking for someone coming over the walls.

Jean and Cosette are on top of the walls now. He decides to make the jump onto one of the roofs in the area. He is, however, spotted by Javert who fires his pistol at the man, but misses. Jean goes into a convent where he knows one of the men there. This man was the one whose life was saved by Jean by his lifting the wagon off the man so he could be pulled out. The man is happy to see the Mayor and says Jean will become their gardener.

The mother superior absolutely refuses to let Javert and his men search the convent.

Ten years later. Cosette is now a young lady. She had promised the mother superior that she would become a nun, but now Cosette wants to leave the convent and see what Paris looks like.

To make Cosette happy, they leave the convent and start to move into their own place in Paris. Along their way, Jean makes a stop and tells Cosette to stay inside the coach. She promises, but as soon as her fatherís in the building, she starts walking up the street.

Itís a very poor neighborhood and Cosette in her nice dress is out-of-place. She comes across a male student haranguing a crowd. Javert is watching and listening to the spokesman. A young man tells Javert that they want the king out and they want unlimited suffrage. The speakerís name is Marius Pontmercy.

Cosette listens for awhile. Marius takes notice of her in the crowd. Cosette now starts to return to her coach, but sheís at a big intersection and doesnít know which road to take. Marius finishes speaking and follows Cosette. She notices the fellow following her and starts to get scared. She runs into her father and the coach.

Jean and Cosette start helping to feed the poor in the neighborhood. They come to know a kid named Gavroche. When Jean goes to get a coat for Gavroche the boy says his friend (Marius) wants to know if Cosette will take a walk with him in the park.

Cosette starts walking toward Marius who is sitting on a bench, but suddenly Cosette is joined by her father. She tries to take a walk alone, but Jean wonít hear of it. He has seen Marius before and doesnít trust him.

A little boy jumps onto the back of Jeanís coach to see where Cosette lives. When they get home and have supper Cosette really gives it to Jean saying thereís something shameful about her or about father and she thinks itís about father. She says he always demands she be around him because he is just so lonely. She feels like a prisoner.

Jean apologizes to Cosette saying she is all he has and he knows only this way to protect her. He returns to his dinner. Once heís gone, Marius knocks on a door with a lookout slit. Cosette goes over to talk with him through the slit. They exchange names and then Marius tells her he will be outside tomorrow night.

Javert confers with his spy on the movements of Marius and his group of radical students. From the information provided by the spy, he decides to move his informer now to another group with more success in getting pistols and rifles.

At night Cosette sneaks out of the house to see Marius. He asks her about her life and she says she is a very simple girl who has had a very simple life growing up in a convent. Marius says heís just a poor student, no brighter than anyone else. They kiss.

Javertís spy says that Marius is in love with the girl Cossette. She sneaks out at night to talk to Marius. So, Javert tells the fellow tht itís his duty to inform the girlís father that his daughter has been seduced by a dangerous radical.

The servant comes into the backyard to tell her master, that Inspector Javert is here to see him. He sneaks into the house and tells his daughter to tell Javert that her father has gone away for a week. And if the man starts asking her questions, tell him that she must excuse herself because she has a headache. Cosette says father looks afraid, but he says no, no.

Cosette tells him and Javert writes a note to her father and gives it to her to show to her father.

Dad reads the letter which tells about Cosette and Marius, a dangerous radical. Jean demands the truth from her, but she shouts at him how dare he demand the truth from her when he only tells her lies! Why does a policeman frighten dad so? And who is her father?

Father says she doesnít understand, but she has ruined them. Of course, Cosette doesnít understand. She knows virtually nothing about her fatherís past life. She then says she will tell her father the truth. She loves Marius. And now she begs father to tell her the truth.

Dad gives in and says heís a convict. He stole food because he was starving. He was in chains for 19 years. They treated him monstrously in prison.

Now Javert learns from his spy that this man Lafitte is from Vigau. He left their about ten years ago with his daughter Cosette.

Javert and the police use force to break through the door of Jeanís place, but everyone is gone.

Marius is going to see Cosette, but the other radicals tells him he must stay for the planning of the revolution for tomorrow. Marius says he will return in one hour and he will help them plan their strategy.

Marius finds the house empty. He sits down at their favorite bench. On it he sees a note written on the bench itself giving him the place to go to. Now he smiles.

Marius goes to the new address and Cosette comes out to talk with him. She tells Marius that he can come with them to England. Marius protests that tomorrow theyíre going to fight to restore the Republic. They both start crying.

When is she leaving? Tomorrow, no one can leave Paris because of Lamarquesí funeral, so they might leave the following day. [Jean Maximilien Lamarque was a huge critic of Louis Philippe and his death was the catalyst of the Parisian June Rebellion of 1832.]

The police prepare their plans to stop the rebellion. There are 24,000 troops in the city and in two days they can be reinforced by another 30,000. Most of the fighting will be at the city square.

The funeral is interrupted by the radical students and others shouting"  "Long live the Republic!"  They try to steal the casket of Lamarque, but the troops attack the rebels.  The students shout:  "To the barricades!"  Barricades are thrown up in different parts of the city. 

Dad wants to leave now, but Cosette says she promised to wait for him.  So dad decides to wait with his daughter. 

In plain clothes, Javert and his spy pretend they are radicals.  Cosette sees Marius waiting on the sidewalk and she walks toward him.  She is suddenly grabbed by Javert, who has Marius already tied up and laying on the sidewalk.  Javert starts insulting Cosette as a bastard whose mother was a whore, and Marius smashes his feet and legs into the back of Javert's knees.  Javert goes down and Cosette gets the pistol.  She unties Marius and he says he's taking Javert before the people's court for justice.

Now Cosette and the maid go to their old house.  And Jean joins the radicals.  He finds Javert tied up in one of the ad hoc hospital rooms.  He then joins Marius on the barricades.  Gavroche goes beyond the barricades and gets shot down by the troops.  They bring the boy into the hospital.  Jean takes the prisoner Javert outside under the pretext of shooting him.  Javert tells Jean to kill him, but Jean unties the man, fires his pistol into the air and leaves him alone in the alley saying Javert is free now. 

French artillery opens up on the barricades, killing lots of men.  The soldiers march toward the barricades.  Marius is wounded.  Jean grabs him off the street and takes him down into the sewers.  The soldiers capture a lot of rebels.  A firing squad cuts down both men and women prisoners.  Soon Javert and a policeman are in the sewers too pursuing Jean. 

Jean and Marius come up for air by the river and there Javert is waiting for them. Jean tells Javert to take him, but let the boy go for Javert knows there will be an amnesty in a few days.  So Javert tells his two policemen to take Jean and Marius to where they want to go, but bring back only Jean to him. 

Jean brings Marius to Cosette and sends for a doctor.  When he tells Cosette that he's turning himself in, she gets very upset, but Jean says he has to go.  He leaves. 

Jean is brought back to Javert.  Javert sends the other policemen away.  He removes Jean's chains and tells him:  "You are free!"  Javert now puts the chains on his own hands, carefully works his way to where only his toes are on the riverside and then lets himself fall backwards into the river. 

Jean walks away, now really a free man. 


Famous story by a famous author, Victor Hugo.  I remember reading the book in high school.  I remember how amazed that this man Javert just would not leave Jean Valjean alone.  Valjean would escape and then Javert would find him again. -- over and over again.  Now I believe that Javert had some kind of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.  The man was obsessed not with justice but just the following of every law no matter what the circumstances. Think of all the time that Javert wasted just chasing this one man, when there were plenty of more serious criminals.  The story is set against the Parisian June Rebellion of 1832.  The rebellion was an unsuccessful, anti-monarchist insurrection of Parisian republicans, June 5-6, 1832.   The rebellion originated in an attempt of the republicans to reverse the establishment in 1830 of the July Monarchy of Louis-Philippe

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.




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